DAW Books was founded by former Ace Books editor Donald Wollheim and his wife Elsie in 1971 to publish science fiction and fantasy. They kicked off with an Andre Norton short story collection and never looked back, enjoying commercial success as well as critical acclaim (their first Hugo Award winner was C.J. Cherryh's Downbelow Station). The publisher were also noted for a united cover design, which gave every book a distinctive yellow spine. After Donald's retirement in 1985 (he passed away in 1990), his daughter Betsy took over the company.
The publisher achieved enormous commercial success with Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy in the 1990s, marking the beginning of a career that eventually saw over 20 million books sold. Their biggest success came in 2007 with the release of Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind. Along with its (much-delayed) sequel, The Wise Man's Fear (2011), the two books sold more than 20 million copies between them.
DAW Books' fortunes seem to have wavered in recent years. The company entered a distribution deal with Penguin which was not a buy-out, but gave Penguin significant editorial control. During this period DAW was forced to drop Michelle West and had to abandon using acclaimed cover artist Michael Whelan for Tad Williams' new books. In July 2020, Wollheim unusually criticised one of her own authors, Patrick Rothfuss, for failing to produce the promised third and concluding volume in his Kingkiller Chronicle series, noting that publishers rely on their mega-selling authors to regularly produce books to allow the publishers to take a chance on other talent (in the two years since then, there has still been no sign of the book).
Astra Publishing was founded in 2020 from a merger of several smaller publishers. Its remit is to find new and exciting fiction for both adults, young adults and children, based on more than thirty years of experience in the business. DAW becomes its newest and oldest imprint, and also only its second imprint dedicated to adult fiction.